Norman Rockwell and Baseball Images of the National Pastime Larry Gerlach For all the historical research on baseball players, owners, umpires, scouts, sportswriters, broadcasters, fans, and ballparks, one group has been largely neglected: the artists who paint emotive images of the game.1 Chief among them is America's "Dickens with a paintbrush," Norman Rockwell, who for more than half a century included baseball among his enduring paintings of American life and culture. I am not interested here in whether Rockwell was a "serious" artist or a commercial illustrator (he called himself an illustrator, but "commercial artist" seems apt) or in the degree to which his paintings were realistically nostalgic representations of bygone days or idealized imaginations of an invented past. Nor will I speculate whether the emotionally troubling realities of modern life--the horrors of World War I, bloody race riots, xenophobic immigration restrictions, organized crime sprees, degrading urban slums--led him, as a young adult, to creating sentimental depictions of "everyday life" of "common folk" in small towns and rural America during simpler times that were rapidly lost.2 My purpose here is to examine how "the People's Painter" represented the emotions and values popularly associated with baseball, thereby giving credence
NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Jun 13, 2014
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